Stories that Create a Giving Culture

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Who among us is not drawn in by a good story?

Stories are the best way we share our experiences and the lessons we learn in life.  Families and communities pass along their traditions, beliefs, and moral values through storytelling.  For centuries, stories and wisdom tales have been shared around campfires and dining room tables, out under the stars, and in temples, mosques, and cathedrals all over the world.  We tell stories to explain the origins of the universe and to explain the mysteries of life and death.

Storytelling, at its best, conveys the rich diversity and texture of humanity, creating a safe and sometimes therapeutic space for challenging assumptions and fostering  tolerance of differences among people.   Well told stories touch our spirits, warm our hearts, and leave lasting images in our minds.   Sharing our soul-filled stories is another way of expressing gratitude and demonstrating generosity.

It should be no surprise to us that storytelling is a very effective tool in nurturing generosity and teaching stewardship in our faith communities.  Sacred texts around the world are a testimony to the power of the story in teaching and learning religious values.  One way to promote generous behavior is to tell the stories of how giving made a difference in your life or others’ lives.  For example, as part of a year-round stewardship program, you can invite people to share their stories in the context of worship, small group ministry, religious education, in digital or print form.

Here are a few ideas for you to consider as you plan your stewardship activities for the coming year:

  • Share stories in worship–this may be a testimony about how the congregation or faith has touched their life in positive ways, a wisdom tale for all ages to enjoy, or a guest whose organization has been the recipient of your congregation’s generosity.
  • Host a storytelling event–hold a potluck dinner or picnic at your facility, open to the community, and invite participants to come ready to share a story that conveys at least one value of the faith tradition.
  • Design a story display board–invite people to write their generosity stories down, along with their photo and perhaps some art work.
  • Create a video or visual story–convey your faith community’s stewardship values and generosity through the use of technology, posting video stories on YouTube, on your congregation’s website, blog or Facebook page.
  • Offer a story prompt–Give your constituents a theme or first line of a story, and let them create a community story.  This could be a part of a small group activity, religious education class, or just a big graffiti board people can write on as they enter the building or enjoy fellowship hour.

The summertime is a great time of year for stewardship leaders to polish their storytelling skills–around the campfire while toasting marshmallows, on the riverbank while fishing, or at an informal gathering of friends.  Share your story and invite others to share theirs; this is how the bonds of family and society are strengthened.  This is a wonderful way to include children, youth, and elders in multi-generational community!

Here are some tips for enhancing your storytelling:

  • Reflect on a memorable experience from which you learned and grew as a person–
    if it holds meaning for you, it can be meaningful to others.
  • Stick to the heart of the message you want to convey and avoid too much detail.
  • Lift up a unique angle or unusual perspective that will pique the listeners’ interest.
  • Engage as many of your listeners’ five senses as possible1507 Hands Sm 123rf to bring the story alive
  • Be sensitive to your audience’s diversity using inclusive language so that all feel a part of it.
  • Use the opportunity of telling your story to connect your experience with your faith teachings and values in ways that others can relate to personally.
  • Tell the story without reading it whenever possible–practice, practice, practice to feel more confident, but realize storytelling does not demand perfection.
  • Engage your audience with movement, song, sounds, or repeated phrases that makes them part of the story.
  • Have fun!  Your enthusiasm and enjoyment are contagious.

 If you have a story or link to share, please leave a comment for the blog host with your contact info.

Resources for Storytelling:

Cogdogroo–StoryIdeas:  http://cogdogroo.wikispaces.com/StoryIdeas

Learn to Give:  http://learningtogive.org/materials/folktales/

National Storytelling Network:    http://www.storynet.org/resources/howtobecomeastoryteller.html

Recommended Stories for All Ages:

Resources for Multi-generational Stewardship & Generosity

Unitarian Universalist Stories of Generosity & Multi-Generational Worship Resources:

http://www.uua.org/finance/fundraising/stories/index.shtml

http://www.uua.org/giving/apf/51886.shtml

http://www.uua.org/worship/multigenerational/index.shtml

http://www.uua.org/worship/by_topic.php?topic=Stories

http://www.uusc.org/worship_resources

Pearmain, Elisa Davy, editor.  Doorways to the Soul  1998.  The Pilgrim Press.

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Stewardship–a shared and sharing ministry

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 Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and enables our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.*

Our living tradition draws upon the wisdom and teachings of religions and human experience around theSSL Montclair globe and throughout history. We seek to liberate minds to search for truth and pursue deeper understanding of our world and our place in the universe. Our Unitarian Universalist principles call us to act in ways that transform lives and ultimately our world for the better. We stand boldly on the side of love and justice, breaking through barriers of oppression and intolerance. Our vision of a world community with peace, liberty and justice for all is an expansive and worthy pursuit.

As Unitarian Universalists, we dedicate ourselves to one another, to promise our mutual trust and support in, among, and beyond our congregations. It takes a high level of commitment of money, time, and leadership to realize our vision and sustain our ministries and programs. One significant way we support the vitality of our faith community is through our gifts of money. Sharing of our resources is part of our shared ministry in the Beloved Community we create together.

In community, money flows from and through our interconnected relationships, rich with complexity, attitudes, and energy; and at its best, money is dynamic, empoweringoffering plate, and generative–an instrument of transformation. We do not have to possess a great amount of money to use what we have in ways that are beneficial and life-sustaining. Abundance is realized when we appreciate all that comes into our lives and share what we can with intention and good will. We are blessed and so we are called to be a blessing to the those around us and to the world.

Giving and generosity are matters of the spirit and at the heart of stewardship. Giving is a spiritual discipline, a practice that reflects one’s religious values, spiritual depth, and maturity. Being generous is a way to help take care of others and a way to say thank you to God and the Universe for everything we are given.

There is a direct relationship between one’s deepest held values and the motivation to give. We contribute our time and resources to the things that matter most to us and for which we are grateful. Therefore, our money and our giving have greater impact when we are intentional about how we express our gratitude and live out our values.

How we share what we have as people of faith matters. 

We might ask ourselves…

  • Have I taken time to experience gratitude for all I have received in my life and from my faith community?
  • In what ways am I expressing gratitude and acting upon my deepest held values and beliefs?
  • Am I giving to my faith community as generously as possible within my means?

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During this Holiday Season, may each of us be an instrument of Love and Illumination, Hope and Generosity~

Laurel Amabile

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_______________________

Looking for meaningful ways to support UU values?  In addition to your local congregation, here are some organizations in your wider UU Community to consider in your year-end giving….

Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF)–a virtual and global UU congregation.  http://www.clfuu.org/

Faithify–a UU crowdfunding website: http://www.faithify.org/

Unitarian Universalist Association–: http://www.uua.org/giving

UU Partner Church Council–connecting UUs and congregations around the world: http://www.uupcc.org/

UU Service Committee social justice and human rights organization: http://www.uusc.org/

* Excerpt of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s covenant to affirm and promote its principles.   http://www.uua.org

A Prayer for Remembrance and Thanks

Spirit of Life, fall afresh upon our community today. Make us a people who remember, who give thanks, who bless and are blessed, and who dare to dream the beautiful dream of justice, healing, and peace that our hearts long for.

We remember our mothers and fathers in faith who listened to your call and worked to build this faith community with a wide and loving heart. We remember those whose generosity built our churches, whose vision saw beyond their own horizons, whose hearts and hands toiled in the vineyard of good works, works of justice and peace.

Make new, we pray, our practice each day of compassion and justice close to home and around the world; renew our hunger for peace in a world marked by violence and grief; strengthen the commitment of our leaders to speak truth to power and to work with those who shape our public life so that together we will build a more just society for all of your children.

We give thanks for the gifts of ministry and for ministry. Lift up and inspire the shepherds who care for our flock and the leaders who serve faithfully, quietly, joyfully, day in and day out.

Give us the energy and foresight of the gentle but persistent gardener who sees the rich harvest in the smallest of seeds: may our churches flourish, large and small, old and new.

Prosper the work of our hands, so that, moment by moment and day by day, in every generation and every age, we will be salt, we will be light, we will be leaven in this world you love so well.    Blessed Be.

Adapted by Laurel Amabile from a reading by The Rev. Kate Huey, United Church of Christ, with permission generously granted by the author.      Sept 21, 2011

Ecumenical Stewardship Center:  http://www.stewardshipresources.org/